sunset from behind the wire

sunset from behind the wire

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Please Don't Tell People that I Drink

A non-sequential series of fictional shorts.
This entry is a bit quirky, but again, I'm trying to mix it up.

Please Don’t Tell People that I Drink

She called a meeting at dusk in the burnt out Sir Francis Drake Hotel. That’s why I’m here but I wasn’t surprised to see you skulking in the shadows. After all, there will be a full moon.

The downtown hotel is in the process of reconstruction having been gutted by fire, but progress to date could be measured by inches. It’s a union job in a union town. 

Her hook was the deal of a lifetime. The building is worthless but the land is not. The owner is willing to discount – a fire sale if you will. She is willing to broker a deal but swift action is called for.

I watch as a red Cadillac croons to the curb and a florid faced man emerges wearing a rumpled beige suit. He’s early. He’s anxious to take the deal and make himself a tidy sum. It’s not hot, but he’s perspiring. Weight and normal exertion combine with the anticipated profits to produce a glandular reaction.

Perhaps he’s trying to get the lay of the land. Not many people visit the charred husk of the Sir Francis Drake and I’d never seen him here before. Severe comb-over, cheap black frame glasses and wide jowls that meld softly into two chins. He has the soft, shifty countenance of a bean counter who made his fortune on embezzled funds from the elderly. As he walks, it’s like two swine coupling in his trousers. Making his way over the rubble isn’t easy for this one but he moves with an anxious deliberation, his mind an abacus of profit, beads clicking in his skull.

I see by the expression on his face as he passes through the lobby and can almost read his mind. His head swivels alertly as he shuffles his way through a pile of trash. 

This festering sewer even has been rejected as temporary lodging by the homeless. Considering the throng of wandering vagabonds in the inner city, it’s noteworthy. Maybe they were more in tune to danger than the stumbling fool who hopes to turn a quick buck. 

The former roach motel smells of damp extinguished fire and it’s as dark and as forlorn as a crypt. The fire licked its way across the polyester carpeting, destroying the lobby, greasy spoon restaurant and rooms above. The blaze spooled soot up the walls and ceiling, leaving patterns of permanent shadow. It is a place of putrefying shoddy construction, now made bare from the fire. Even seemingly useless items have been looted from the inside, leaving it barren, raped and dead. Most of the tiles in the terrazzo floor have long since been pried from their base in an effort to salvage everything of value from the corpse-like building. 

His face pales as the sunlight fades and his exploration continues. I know what he is feeling. The hotel has that effect on people. It’s like walking through a morgue. He looks up at the only item of elegance, a caged skylight above the lobby where the last ebbing red rays of dusk filter in through glassless window frames.

His disquiet increases, a cellular phone in one hand now and a business card in the other. I know it’s her card.

Ah, he still thinks she’s coming. 

Squinting in the twilight at the card, he pounds the numbers earnestly with fat, manicured nails. 

By now you’re guessing that she won’t answer. Real estate might be her business but she loves me even more than a quick commission, which is quite something these days.

The bean counter slides a cigar from an interior coat pocket, pulls it from the cellophane tube. Now chewing the end instead of clipping it, spitting the nub to the floor, bravado to quell the panic. The lighter appears in perfect working order but he can’t operate it, so he throws it to the floor and grinds the cigar between his molars without a light.

Another glance at his watch, a look through the skylight to the darkening world outside, and a silk scarf appears in his hand to mop his brow.

He wants to believe that the deal can be concluded tonight, his soft, sweaty palm pressed against hers in an earnest show of faith. The funds would transfer the following day.

I spoke quietly, as you know I do at times like these, “Celui qui vit mal, meurt ègalement mal.” Then I cursed myself for there’s absolutely no way this guy could understand Corsican. Once again, this time in English, “He who leads an immoral life dies an immoral death.”

Sweat rings appear in his jacket. No matter the ambient light, I can see very well. But I know what you’re thinking and you’re quite right. I don’t need to see the sweat rings because I smell the fear. It’s an aphrodisiac that intoxicates every bit as much as the blood satiates. 

“Who’s there?” He backs toward a soot-stained wall and then brushes back into it. The beige suit has a large smudge on it now, but he doesn’t care. He’s not at the top of the food chain anymore than the chicken he had for lunch had been. 

I move closer for an even better look, keeping to the shadows. You heard me chuckle inwardly didn’t you – he’s trying the cell phone again. Only greed keeps him here.

He’s had a lot of healthy meals in his life. I’m happy that I’m not paying by the pound. She has me pay, but it’s nothing like your wicked mind is conjuring up. Nothing so vulgar as that. It’s all about love.

Greed keeps you here too doesn’t it? I take the blood and you can savage what’s left. I know you’re capable of finding your own meals but for some strange reason you tag along with me. Maybe it’s because we’re friends, it’s your full moon and we’re both on days off from our straight jobs where we work the graveyard shift at the hospital.


Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Encounter in Zamboanga

A non-sequential series of fictional shorts:

Encounter in Zamboanga

“Pulling the trigger would damage or destroy the Rolls Royce of dicks, I assure you, causing women to mourn throughout Indochina.” Kennedy’s hand was frozen inside of his flashy suit. “I need a lighter for my cigarette.” He winked behind wire frame glasses, but it wasn’t an, I-know-something-you-don’t wink. It was more of a nervous, you don’t have anything to worry about – honest – sort of wink.

I laughed, pulled the .45 Colt out from under the tablecloth, and sat it on the table next to my mug of hot tea. “I prefer a cigar.”

Patrons seated around us glanced at the handgun, now in plain site on the tablecloth. None of them appeared to find that action in any way unusual. It was a mobbed up dim sum restaurant in Zamboanga.

There wasn’t much in Zamboanga worth seeing. The dim sum joint just off Valderosa Street was a gathering place for the underworld, which included people like me, Kennedy and a host of others who were up to no good. The drinks were watered down, the Chinese dumplings were tolerable but nobody asked any questions and that was more important than cheap whiskey and mediocre food.

“Dunhills.” Kennedy pulled out a gold plated cigarette lighter and torched the end of his cigarette. “They blend the tobacco to my specifications and charge me a king’s ransom. They’re not bad. Try one.” I held up a cigar declining in the process. “Suit yourself.” He lifted the cigarette case gently from the table and it disappeared in an outside pocket of his silk safari style jacket.

He drew deeply on the smoke and relaxed in his chair. “I needed a smoke,” he confessed.

“What happened to your wife?” I asked, lighting my cigar carefully with a lucifer match.

Kennedy looked confused. “Which one?”

“The Vietnamese lady that was with you the last time I saw you.”

“Oh, her. That was my fifth wife, Ngoc. She went crazy.” Kennedy said sadly. “I think I have that effect on women.”

We didn’t speak for some minutes.

Kennedy broke the silence. “I’ve got a dirty mind, so I still think some details have been kept from me, to spare a blood bath. It was last year or maybe the year before in Ho Chi Minh City and she was with me when the Security Police made a big round up. I bought my way out but didn’t have enough for her, uh, bail.”

“She was in heavy custody, getting the shit slapped out of her accused of being an anti-communist, but it wasn’t too serious by our standards. It was your typical heavy Vietnamese treatment with women—tie their ass up all elaborately for a few days, fuck up the shoulders and the arms, slap the face, talk smart, threaten rape but settle for denying shampoo and soap. It’s strange about Oriental sensibilities when they set out to insult a lady as distinct from torturing a whore. I swear the fuckers are almost polite.”

He motioned the waiter to the table.” It must be respect. Anyway, I had a hot asset working in the Defense Ministry. This guy had world-class stroke, but considering the time and circumstances, I had a communication problem that was beyond belief. Finally I tasked him with a vengeance and Ngoc was freed.”

“So she takes about a month to calm down, and then she dolls herself all up and goes back to this Vietnamese Senior Colonel that had control of the situation. She tells him, ‘I couldn’t say anything because of what was happening. I didn’t want to cause any problems in your job or your family, but I really admired the way you handled things and I’m sorry if I caused you any problems.’ So naturally, this asshole is interested right away, but Ngoc excuses herself and dances away. Well, now he is really interested, and this thing goes back and forth for a while, with Ngoc all timidly concerned for the implications to his career like a fluttering dove.”

“Anyway, this Senior Colonel is shortly found dead and the cause of death is found to be that he was buried alive in his dress uniform in a vacant lot in Thanh Binh District. I guess he thought he was going on an important date, eh?”

“And God forgive me but I smacked her upside the head, and I asked her, ‘did you have to fuck that bastard to kill him?’ She just smiled that Mona Lisa smile and said, ‘don't judge me by what you will do, judge me by what I won’t do.’”

“Did she do it by herself?” I asked casually.

“No, I don’t think so.” Kennedy replied. “My old driver was in on the scam and probably buried the asshole. He took me aside a few months later and told me, ‘that woman has honor you still can’t see.’”

“You love her?”

“Ngoc? Damned straight I love her.”

“Is she here?”

For a moment he looked helpless and panicked. The waiter broke his mood and he ordered Bushmills. I stuck with tea. Then he smiled. “As you might expect, she went through considerable stress being married to me.”

“That has to be the understatement of the year.” I drank my tea, still piping hot in the china mug that held it.

“I took her back to the Land of flushing toilets. This Agency psychiatrist was assigned her case because she was having problems because of everything she had been through with me.”

Ngoc went everywhere with two stuffed rabbits back then. She named them Barbara and Elizabeth. She took them to the doctor’s office down in Reston, not far from headquarters. Naturally, the doctor asked about them and she said, ‘Why don’t you ask them yourself, and I’ll be your interpreter.’ The Agency doctor asked why they couldn’t speak for themselves, and she said, ‘they can, but they only speak Vietnamese, and you don’t, so I guess I will have to interpret, won’t I?’”

“So the doctor agreed and he asked Barbara, ‘how are you feeling today?’ Barbara said, ‘I don’t feel well at all.’ The doctor asked why, and Barbara said, ‘Because that bitch Elizabeth is on my nerves and I want to kill her.’ So the doctor asked Elizabeth, ‘How do you feel about what Barbara said?’ Elizabeth said, ‘Let her try.’”

“So the Agency doctor said to Ngoc, ‘You must be feeling some conflicts.’”

“Ngoc said, ‘No, I’m sitting here interpreting for a doctor who can be persuaded that stuffed animals talk, so the only thing I’m feeling is disgusted.’”

“That’s pretty funny.” I said.

“To tell you the truth, it’s pretty fucked up. She’s in a mental hospital even though she’s just as sane as you and me. Ok, not me. Not me—as sane as you are. Maybe she’s there because she knows I can’t get to her there and persuade her to come back here running and gunning.”


Monday, April 28, 2014

Wishing Well

A non-sequential series of fictional shorts. No, I don't think that I'm Stephen King - just making a run at a different genre.

Wishing Well

I haven’t seen you around here before. Welcome to Natasville. Oh, right, you’re with the people who bought the old Prentice home. You know that very house sits on the land where Hobb Natas first built his store so you’ll be living on prime real estate here in town. It's very historic. We’ve tried to make it one of those State Historical Districts you see in the high-flautin’ towns but we were never able to make it happen for us. The governor wanted a sizable campaign contribution and we couldn't put together enough scratch to make it a reality.

There isn’t much to see here except the cannon in the park donated to the city at the end of the Great War, the shell of a jet from the Viet Nam War, also in the park, and of course, there is the wishing well.

You haven’t seen the well yet? Oh, you will. We all go to the well to wish. 

It was here before the first white men. Just a round hole in the ground in the middle of a field, but the Indians held it to be a sacred place. When Hobb Natas came here, there was rumored to be Indian burial scaffolds and skeletons. He wasn’t put off by heathen bones and bits of blue rock and feathers. He cleaned it out, set up his store, right on the land where the Prentice house, and your house, now sits.

The well? Yes, it was there back in those days. I think old Hobb must have put up a snake rail fence around it, but it didn’t keep the kids from dropping rocks or burning pieces of wood into it to see how far it was to the bottom. Problem is, you never heard anything hit bottom and the burning wood then, or today the road flare today burns out before it finds the terminus. Best you take a look yourself. The wishing well is about the only thing to look at here in town.

Yes, people have covered it up with planks and steel gratings. All sorts of things have covered it from time to time including a canvas tent, put up by the American Legion Post. It’s the lowest point in the area so it’s also a natural drain and if you cover it the area will flood at the first rain. None of the coverings remain for long. 

I don’t precisely know why they don’t stay long, except the well doesn’t like it. It has more or less a mind of its own. It calls to you. It called to me: “Look down in the wishing well and it will take you down to Hell.” It’s not a terrifying voice, more like the voices of first grade kids singing it to you.

No, not the Vienna Boy's Choir, don't be silly. It's simple, beautiful and persuasive.

Don’t look at me like that. Check it out for yourself. When you look into the well, the well looks back into you. It ponders your desires and wishes, it asks you to give it something and it gives you what you want in return.

It depends. Usually it prefers living things. You won’t see any feral dogs or cats running around Natasville. Once, and I don’t know this for a fact, when the Jones girl had a love child, the father was rumored to be Pastor Smith. He’s now moved on, but that baby vanished. Some say the baby was adopted out to a family of Christians in Shreveport, but people who think that never looked into the well.

Yes, it can be shocking, at first. Come on, I’ll show you and you can see for yourself. Let’s just walk across the street. You know people come here for different reasons, but the well will call to you. That State Senator who was involved with the intern and left his wife moved here to hide from the scandal. He jumped into the well and was never seen again. This is flat land here. There aren’t any bridges or high rocks to jump from. The well services that need for the locals who require an escape.

No, it doesn’t require a blood sacrifice. That’s just goolish talk. Look we’re here now. See, doesn’t that look like a perfectly ordinary round hole in the ground? Why would we need a guard rail? Everybody knows that you can’t even jump in the well unless it calls to you. I hear it now. Do you? Look down into the wishing well and it will take you down to Hell. So pleasing, so sweet. I see now that it’s no mistake that you came to Natasville. Step closer. There you go, one more step and you're there. 

Look over the rim, into the well, and the well will look into you.


Mad Love

A non-sequential series of fictional shorts:

Mad Love

It happened as these things usually do. A scientist dabbled into matters best left alone. One day a careless lab assistant, charged with cleaning up mixed two vials of this and that, oblivious to the consequences…

They kept it alive in a vat in a laboratory, not because they wanted to study it, but because they were compelled not to kill it. In fact, the mere thought of disposing of this protoplasmic mass made the researchers ill. They saw an angry man wearing a hockey goalkeeper’s mask holding a chainsaw. They felt the walls close in and the ceiling drop toward the floor. The aversion to doing it damage was profound, and had been eerily customized to the set of phobias that each researcher most clearly identified with. Sometimes writing snakes covered the vat, at other times it was rats or spiders. 

As their general disposition toward the bubbling, churning mass, created by accident improved as it bubbled pheromones and sent off good vibrations, anthems and hymns resounded and bon ami resulted.

Mostly students were exposed to the vat and its contents. They were the same people that thought Taco Bell was a phone company in Mexico; so fat that when they sat on a rainbow, Skittles popped out; so ugly that they made blind kids cry; the same kind of students who put down 911 on an employment application when an emergency contact number is called for. Which is to say, they were not the pick of the litter. Truth be told, the jerk-water college catered to idiots, which is why the protoplasmic mess was created in the first place and took hold upon their psyches.

Even though the story is not a new one, an evil scientist, bent on world domination happened to be walking down the hallway outside the chemistry lab and the protoplasmic mass called to him.

“Get me out of this asylum and I’ll help you.” The protoplasmic mass called.

“How you can you help me?” The mad scientist said, as if speaking to the wall. Now if it was anybody but a mad scientist, you’d be concerned. Since he is mad by definition, such conduct is de jur. 

“I’ll make you rich!” The goo promised sincerely.

“I don’t want to be richer!” The mad scientist replied in his mind. "The President has me creating green energy companies that fail and I make billions."

“I’ll make you famous!” The goo went to Plan B in the promise-them-anything department.

“The last time I received undo publicity, they locked me in a mental hospital.” The mad scientist said morosely. "Nobody recognizes my genius except other evil geniuses -- and that takes us back to green energy."

“I’ll get women for you.” The goo was on Plan C and threw everything at it.

“You can get ME laid?” The mad scientist was intrigued.

“Uh, sure.” The goo wasn’t certain it could deliver the goods, but at this point it had needed transportation more certainly than it needed to be trustworthy.





Sunday, April 27, 2014

A Sound of Silence

This will have to pass for a "Sunday sermonette".

A non-sequential series of fictional shorts:

A Sound of Silence

Not a sound, not a whisper, not a dog barking, a chicken crowing or a car’s engine disturbed the morning as I lay in bed, unsure if I died at some time during the night. The point being that I didn't feel the way that I expected one to feel when the bell tolled.

The stillness unnerved me, disturbed my waking, and I lay in bed, quilt pulled high. The 6:00 am train never came past with its metal wheels roaring, steel on steel with the big diesel locomotives pulling box cars of stuff from here to there. No wail of the big train horn tore through the absolute silence.

If I had died in my slumber, wouldn’t I have gone into the light? I pondered over my many sins, misdeeds and over the intentional wrongs I did driven by hubris, passion and lust. Perhaps Hell was remaining in stasis, in silence, alone, while souls of the worthy departed, rushed to destinations on unfathomable shores--into the light.

To test the theory I pulled open the quilt, pivoted, feet meeting slippers on the bedroom floor. It felt real in surreal way because there was still no sound, no recognition, no sudden recollection of the circumstances that brought me to this silent situation that was so like the room where I slept but seemed now subtly alien.

The slippers scuffed the old oak floor when I walked but the only sound in the universe was the sounds I made, the scuffing of cheap plastic soles on old wood. There was a floor safe. I walked there first, spun the dial and cranked it open. I pulled out old paper in bundles, the eyes of dead presidents scanned me lifelessly and I quickly replaced them, dropping the metal door with a satisfying thunk. My riches seemed intact.

Scuff – scuff – scuff to the washroom, the tap squeaked and cold water rushed out. I caught some in my glass and drank it. The water felt cold, but unsatisfying. Maybe I wasn’t thirsty.

Looking back at me from the mirror was a face I didn’t recognize as my own. I took a bar of soap, and wetting it, began to transfer its filmy finish to the mirror because her voice was speaking to me and I knew that it came from the mirror.

Her words described a day of etched shadows and pacific blues in the early winter sun of the western ocean when first we knew that we loved each other. Salty kisses and tide pools. The love and its recognition was neither sudden nor gradual; it was suspended. Time stopped for us when we made love urgently like the continuous rain that builds to an inevitable flood. Days now past from the  vivid moment into cobwebbed history.

The words were a song, now muted by the soap, now hushed by my force of will as I moved out of the washroom and slammed the door behind me. It should have slammed. I pulled it hard. I pulled it very hard behind me. But there was only a hush where a bark of wood on wood, a report of finality should have echoed through the house.

Something drew my attention upward, to the ceiling, to the white plaster top to the box where I lived but there was no white plaster, no ceiling or roof at all. Simply an ink black sky blazing with vibrant stars and a waning moon.



Saturday, April 26, 2014

Her Garden


A non-sequential series of fictional shorts:

Her Garden

They kept me at Cung Son for far too long. The Machine screwed up rotations because of manpower constraints or it wouldn't have happened this way.

We worked with a Civilian Irregular Defense Group company of mostly Jarai Montagnards, but there were three families of Vietnamese belonging to officers who were attached to our mission who came with their men on an ill advised accompanied tour. The way the women saw it, if their men were killed, they wanted to die too. While admirable, the men all died on missions opposing the Viet Cong's District Mobile Company at various points in the jungle and the families were left in camp. The RVN Lieutenant Colonel's daughter and I became friends. Then we rotated. Some went one place, some went another. I bounced back to 'the world'.

She handed me a flower.

I lied, “I’ll be back soon.”

Her eyes said, remember me. Her lips said, “I know.”

I never saw her again, never heard her voice, never touched her hand, never again felt her embrace.

The evacuation took place in light rain at the first onset of monsoon. Light discipline prevailed so I didn’t see her face clearly after that. I couldn’t feel her tears because they were mixed with the falling rain.

Rotors turned, jet turbines spun, the odor of JP-8. Time suspended itself if only for a moment. I looked at the girl holding her hand toward me and burned the memory for all time.

The hamlet we left in the highlands received mortar rounds as the helicopters drifted higher into the night. Rain muted the impact of the artillery below.

Later, sitting in the officer’s club, pilots boasted. It was only pure luck that they saw the mortar crews serving their tubes. A gun ship took them out as they faithfully dropped one round after another.

“The dinks weren’t lucky today. They wasted the hamlet before we took out the mortars.” One pilot said.

“Zipper heads shoulda ducked when they heard incoming.” Another counseled with maximum sagacity.

“They were in the open, saying goodbye.” I gave my benediction.

Date Estimated Return, Overseas - DEROS - Now I sit in a reclining padded seat on an airplane wearing Class A, headed back to a home that lacks substance, with the only reality remaining behind me. The whine of the engines lulls me to sleep and in that uneasy sleep, I dream.

I dream of her garden beside the river where flowers no longer turn into the light but have become stained glass that admits color without life.

I dream of her garden where once I paused and inhaled the fragrant morning, but now the things she planted grow wild without her as careless as a kite in the sky, dancing without a tail.

I dream of her garden where the excellent things that we planned together seemed so real that you could touch and taste them, but they were as etherial as the evening scud reflecting the last rays of the dying day.


Friday, April 25, 2014

Leprechaun

A non-sequential series of fictional shorts:

Leprechaun

Are there other worlds in other dimensions of space that somehow touch ours? Does it seem that the membrane between what we see with our mind and what we experience unconsciously is as porous as a bridal veil? Can we tear that barrier to feel what we can’t explain—that smallest of things that are present seem completely beyond our reach and beyond our understanding?

***

Some people called him an angry gnome, but Basil Noldor ignored them. Others said he was possessed of Satan because he didn’t acknowledge God’s hand in all things. He merely winked an eye, magnified out of all proportion by the coke-bottle-bottom eyeglasses that he wore draped over a large, outsized nose. A more objective and far kinder evaluation of the essence of Basil Noldor, writer, dealer in antiquities was unfortunately, is his inclination to be militantly eccentric.

In his cottage, not far from the river, Basil sat hunched over a desk, wearing out another iron nub, dipping it in ink and scratching words on a page. His son tried to ignore him but found it difficult because his father engaged him in conversation. Basil Noldor’s voice, high pitched and raspy with much angry use, intoned, “There’s no such thing, as magic!” His son heard this rant before and did his best to tone his father out. “But I do admit that the imagination needs superstitions.” His son added a log to the dwindling coals on the hearth. “They weave the fabric of history and society so that, in time, there is very little difference between fables and historical fact. It all becomes fact and without that historical reassurance of legends mixed with truth, the world would be a lonely place indeed. That, my son, is why I write.”

Ignatius Noldor, only son to Basil, had risen partly through bribery offered by his father and partly because he could be obsequious, to the ranking assistant alderman. Unlike his father, Basil, he firmly believed in magic. Ignatius gripped fast to the hope that mystical incantations could bring the metaphysical world directly into his physical presence, for his specific benefit. He made a respectable living as a pander and factotum, eating other men’s bread without guilt or any remorse at all, while providing scant services in return. 

After adding wood to the fire and reclining back into his chair, Ignatius picked up a well worn, leather bound tome dealing specifically with magic. While his father ranted in muttering tones and scratched his pen. Ignatius read other men’s words, trying to suck the marrow out of their mystical message.

Suspended by a rusty rod reputedly fashioned from meteorite iron, an elaborate tapestry hung over the fireplace. Careful embroidery recounted the journey of the Noldor family through time. It was a chronicle, a family tree, a historical tribute, and had been in the family for over 400 years. Ignatius was less than impressed by it. There had been a time when he was younger when he looked at the gilded names with awe. Age and experience taught him to be underwhelmed by the tapestry. Noldors held ignominious postings and minor jobs as bookkeepers, bank tellers and nannies. None was ever a daring knight, a scarlet woman or a powerful bishop. Clemet Noldor did become a man of the cloth but never advanced beyond the ash stained sackcloth of an ordinary monk. 

A serious understanding of his family’s painful mediocrity spurred Ignatius to exceed the standard set by preceding generations through the study of magic, mystics and witches and warlocks, shamans and the traditions of the dim and distant past. His father thought it foolishness, a complete waste of time and an indulgence in fantasy. 

Peering into crystals, uttering and muttering, studiously mixing chemicals and often getting sick from the fumes they produced, Ignatius’ single-minded pursuit of truth-in-magic continued without any significant breaks. There was something out there, and he knew he was the Noldor to find it.

Suddenly Basil stopped writing. He looked at his son, so much the image of himself, reading, pondering, and he made a decision.

“Son, stand with me by the fire if you will.” 

Ignatius set down his book, carefully marking his place and joined his father. 

“Magic is not real nor does it exist apart from natural law. It’s simply a way of trying to explain the explainable in a way that discounts science. I want to show you something that has been in our family for nearly five hundred years.” Basil said as he drew back the tapestry over the fireplace as one would pull a curtain aside.

There was a tunnel, three feet high, large enough for either Basil or Ignatius to walk through without bending over that went back into the wall at least five feet. A shimmering darkness glittered in the tunnel and Ignatius stood on his toes to get a better look in as his father fetched a ladder.

Once in place, Basil led the way up the steps and into the tunnel.

“What is it father?” 

“One of the most closely guarded secrets of our family. It’s a portal in space-time, naturally occurring, stable, and possibly driven by the energy created by the stones in this part of the house.” Basil said with a flare.

“Magic?” 

“Not magic, science, my son. I don’t understand precisely why it’s here or how it came to form here, but its process is part of the natural order. It’s night there on the other side of the portal but when I first saw it, the doorway in time opened onto a glade, with violet heather blooming so that the world appeared to be a rolling sea of lavender under a cerulean sky, all the magic in the world, all the fables and mystery of the ages were challenged by a single leap into the dark that was taken by my brother, Winthrop and his cousin Garner. It was a free dive into oblivion. And I was there to watch them walk through.”

Basil lit his pipe. “They didn’t seem like ghost or an apparitions to me, but I have no idea how they might have appeared to somebody looking at them from the other side of the door in space-time. No shade of a lost soul or glittering angel, I expect, but you never know.”

“Did they ever come back?” Ignatius asked. “Have you heard from them?” 

Basil contemplated the shimmering world on the other side of the portal as dawn began to peak beyond the distant hills. “They came here and spoke from time to time. They needed things. So I had them fine suits of green made, sent pots of gold coin to help them pay for their needs, and such.”

“So there are people on this other world? People like us?”

“People twice our size, who are different, and not so different, I expect. I have seen them. I don’t think they can see me - and a trip through this doorway, this shimmering veil, is a one-way journey since neither Garner or my brother Winthrop were ever able to return. Winthrop said that some of the people took Garner and forced him to disclose the location of his pot of gold. Once they found it, they were so enthralled with its value that they ignored him and he was able to escape.”

Ignatius was floored, “But gold is so common.”



Thursday, April 24, 2014

Requiem


A non-sequential series of fictional shorts:

Requiem

Requiem æternam dona eis, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis. Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let light perpetual shine upon them.

The pictures of his father that escaped his mother’s scissors showed a robust, smiling man who resembled him and portended what he would look like in middle age. His mother buried her anxiety in booze, pills and food.

Dues to Indian Guides had been paid by the American Legion Chapter, school lunch provided under the aegis of a government program for same, the Future Farmers of America rejected him because he expressed a disdain for agriculture and horticulture. 

He managed average grades in high school, played baseball in the summer, football in the winter and wrestled on the team because anything that kept him from going home after school imparted sanity and clarity to the world he lived in.

Two girls almost became girlfriends. Both agreed to go to the movies with him. Both pretended to kiss him, both cruised with him up and down Main Street in the Buick he inherited when his grandfather died. 

Without many prospects except the certainty of filling the military’s levy, he joined the United States Marine Corps soon after he walked to the podium and accepted his high school diploma.

We brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the Name of the Lord.

He pitched hand grenades made of green fiberglass and fired his rifle at targets without a single wave of Maggie’s Drawers. He marched and countermarched and when he’d marched enough and done enough push-ups, they allowed him to blouse his boots. 

Wooden bleachers, painted green, in much the same way as nearly everything in his world had been painted green, provided a platform for instruction. Everything from hygienically wiping his ass after he shat, to the proper method of lacing boots and how to slap a plastic bandage to a sucking chest wound rounded his training.

A brass band cheered him onto the airplane with the other replacements.

In the midst of life we are in death: of whom may we seek for succor, but of thee, O Lord, who for our sins art justly displeased? Yet, O Lord God most holy, O Lord most mighty, O holy and most merciful Savior, deliver us not into the bitter pains of eternal death.

Friends came and they went. Harlan Joe Martin took a round through the nose from an unseen VC. Rock Ape stepped on a bouncing betty that popped up to dick height before releasing the ball bearings that turned him into a human sieve. The Jew contracted dysentery and a cobra bit him while he was taking dump. Slick Willy just died. Nobody ever figured out why. He wedged the dog tags between Slick Willy’s upper and lower teeth and tapped the bottom of his jaw hard with an entrenching tool to wedge it tight before they threw his body on the helicopter and flew it back to be sent home in a metal box. Timmy Dow stepped into pungee sticks and had been casevac’d. Dow died in clean sheets back in the hospital.

Friends were not a great idea.

Man that is born of a woman hath but a short time to live, and is full of misery. He cometh up, and is cut down, like a flower; he fleeth as it were a shadow, and never continueth in one stay.

The Southern Cross shown down on him in the darkness on clear nights. Rain corroded ammunition and caused the straps from the pack to chafe deeper. Gnats bit, leaches slithered and sucked. The VC dropped mortar rounds, set traps and fired their Russian made rifles. Everything wanted his blood and after a while he didn’t care nearly as much as he did at first.

A second stripe provided the excuse to find a woman. It wouldn’t due for a corporal to die a virgin. A bottle of Ba Mui Ba, five dollars and sloppy seconds in the skivvie house ended up with a trip to the corpsman and treatment for the clap.

Boned by the second stripe: the Green Machine assigned him to recon north of Phu Bai, newly issued seven-eighty-two gear and an ambitious mustanger planning his career around zero-dark-thirty operations.

Thou knowest, Lord, the secrets of our hearts; shut not thy merciful ears to our prayer; but spare us, Lord most holy, O God most mighty.

He had been thinking about that last bowl of cornflakes and a seabag drag to the airplane and the big bird home when it happened. They say you never hear the round that kills you.



Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Passion

A non-sequential series of fictional shorts:

Passion

The origin of her passion seems hard to pin down. Some attributed it to an underprivileged childhood in the poorest part of a poor state. Others suggested it resulted from a previous life where karma earned put her in this very place, at this very time based on the merit of her actions. I can’t discount the relative value of either position, but I suspect that she was driven to be loved by that inner force that impels us all. Except in the case of Susan Brock, it was the same sort of gnawing, boring creature that lives in the soul of an alcoholic or an arsonist. Her passion was compulsive, far beyond her own control, and she focused it on art and sculpture.

Her finest work was also her most controversial. Portraying Jesus Christ as a man of ordinary stature and demeanor instead of the chiseled, or gaunt features favored by Renaissance masters. Her efforts earned her the derision of the clerical community, particularly since they commissioned the work and paid her far in excess of what was reasonable. How, they asked themselves, could such a gifted artist go so far wrong in portraying their glorified savior as a common man with a common touch?

Another painting in the lobby of the sports center had been torn down. She never finished it, but I had seen part of it while it was in the process of being painted. Her eye captured the essence of modern professional sports. The athletes were bloated, parodies living decedent lives, indulged and pandered to with the enthusiasm of adoring crowds and parasitical agents and promoters who both created and lived from the hype. When I saw it, I was awed by the scope of the emotions that she evoked. It was in its own way, the ceiling of a Sistine Chapel, but it was also an indictment of the system, cutting completely to the quick. Did she think she could pull it off? At least that was what I asked myself when I gazed at the huge mural under construction. The answer, of course, is that she didn’t care what anybody else thought. Genius, like water, seeks its own level.

The move began on Martha's Vinyard in one of those large estates that spilled out onto the ocean. It once belonged to a Kennedy but was bought by a software tycoon with a fondness for liberal politics. My invitation came circuitously, hand delivered by a former colleague who people thought I might have liked and trusted. I attended out of curiosity. White tie affairs can be stuffy but in probing the guest list surreptitiously, I found half a dozen beautiful, noteworthy women who were widely renowned as nymphomaniacs. Though I didn't intend to partake, the social dynamic was bound to be more interesting than the usual gathering of rich and powerful people.

I arrived in an airport rental, a Honda, and the valets nosed it in among the Bentleys, Bugattis, and Ferraris. They gave me an odd look when I asked them not to scratch the car. 

Those who wished to get my attention probed at the party, where drunk movie stars and politicians groped the willing nymphs. Older society dames, mutton dressed up as lamb, tried to cut a sharp young man out of the herd. Waiters circulated with expensive champagne. I kept my back to the wall and just took in the scene. The opening was somewhat elegant for them, an attack du fer with a balestra. Mike Anderson, Deputy Director of Central Intelligence saddled up next to me and said, "Who invited you?"

"I thought the invitation strange because the couple that threw the soirée hardly knew me and we moved in completely different circles. I came because I heard that Susan Brock would be here and I wanted to meet her personally."

"What do you think?"

"Of the party? Hors d’oeuvres, a glass of extremely good champagne and two boring conversations with people I've never met before and hope to never meet again. Standard Martha's Vineyard party except the President and First Lady didn't show up to work the room and drag the sack for donations. I heard that they poured the foundation of the Presidential Library. But why do you care what I think, Mike?"

"Just curious."

He left to be replaced by a seventy-something dowager with a narrow chest and a wide ass. She wanted somebody to take her home. Turner grabbed my right bicep from behind, followed by a sincere handshake, eyes locked. Sincerity was never Turner’s strong suit. I didn't mind. He saved me from the diamond encrusted crone.

“Did you come to meet Miss Brock?” 

“Did you arrange to have the invitation sent?” Turner looked away. He was not an accomplished liar.

“For Christ’s sake.”

“Why – did you arrange to send me an invitation?”

Turner nervously turned and spoke into my ear, “outside.” Louder, “I need to take some air. Care to join me?”

I followed him through French doors to a cobbled patio, and through a glacis packed with vines to an area that was if anything, less secure than the party with its crush of people and myriad competing voices.

“She embarrassed the boss.” Turner came to the point immediately, which is typical Turner.

“The President?” I wanted to know which boss we were talking about.

“Don’t you follow the press? She is gifted, and has some remarkable credits to her name but lately everything she takes on commission turns out to be, well.” He paused for a word, “unsound.”

“You know I follow her work or you wouldn’t have arranged my invitation.”

“She’s got to go away – a very long trip.” Turner used language I understood. "A wet trip." He emphasized that which required no emphasis.

“And you want me to be the travel agent?” I asked, incredulous. “Why me? I’m a fan of hers even though I never met her. Get somebody that isn’t involved with her…charisma.” I turned and walked back into the party with Turner straining to say something, not daring to say more. I heard Turner say something to the effect that Ubango Carter was about to be embarrassed.

Ms. Brock never appeared at the party, so I went looking for her.

The sculpture/painting she did at the behest of the National Endowment for the Arts depicted the president, representing the United States as a snake eating his own tail. The sculpture was set in amid Roman columns that formed a bank. It took some doing to set up a private viewing before the work was unveiled to the world. I’m good at arranging things like that. It’s what I do. 

Susan Brock’s work was downright funny if you weren’t Ubingo Carter, egocentric president. I laughed when I saw it. Susan Brock stood there in an old, paint stained t-shirt under blue cargo pants that accentuated a perfect ass and looked at me while I looked at her art.

“Who are you, Mister, uh Franks? People usually don't pull those sorts of strings to get in to see my work before it's unveiled." 

“I'm an art lover, a connoisseur of beauty, a fan of yours.” I replied. “I’ve noticed that the focus of your art has changed lately.”

Susan Brock looked at me with piercing blue eyes that burned like smoldering corn flowers. “I’m done being a whore. Now I call it the way I see it.”

“Even if it makes your employers angry?”

“Especially if it does that.”

They came at me the second time corps-a-corps, a physical contact between the two fencers during a bout, illegal in foil and sabre, but legal in the world where I live since it’s more or less all legal, or illegal depending how you look at it when you’re the one who fixes things.

I was eating a roast beef dip sandwich when they came. How can I forget the day? I dipped the face of the sandwich in some horseradish sauce, took a spicy bite and washed it with a beer as the tall fat man and the short thin man walked through the café purposefully in my direction. Tall/Fat had credentials. I’d seen those creds before and knew what legitimate credentials looked like. Short/Thin had a set of his own. It didn’t impress me. I had a purloined set back I worked for the same agency.

“You guys want a bite of my sandwich?” I asked Tall/Fat. To Short/Thin, “Wanna beer…of your own?”

Both declined, slipping their credentials back into off-the-shelf sport coats. “You need to come with us.”

I motioned toward chairs across the table from where I was eating. “I’m not done. And I’ll decide when I’m done whether or not I’ll be going with you. In fact, the more I think about it, the better I like conducting whatever business you have in mind right here.” I dipped the corner of the sandwich into the horseradish sauce, took a bite and then forked in a dollop of potato salad from the plate behind the bite of sandwich. A swish of beer and the taste sensation was complete.

Both of them shrugged and sat down. “A pitcher of Dos Equis and two more glasses.” I ordered from a passing waitress.

“The beer is on the way, what do you gentlemen have on your mind?” 

Short/Thin said, “Turner wants to speak to you.”

"Again?"

You can see where this is all headed. I know what you’re thinking. You want to know if I acceded to the will of the Chief Executive. You want to know where Susan Brock is, because she dropped off the world stage. There are no more Susan Brock exhibits, no more parties featuring the artist, no more provocative art.

I guess you’re entitled to the truth. I did send her into retirement. But it’s not what you think. It didn’t happen the way your dirty mind works. Her bones aren’t bleaching in the desert and her corpse isn’t wrapped in heavy chain in the bottom of a lake. She lives with me now. I fell in love with her work before I ever fell in love with Susan Brock. She’s expecting our first baby in three months. She set herself to create an interesting environment for our baby daughter. And nobody is trying to send her on a vacation anymore because she’s with me and she’s safe.


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The End of Cynicism?

A blogging friend (cynic with attitude) suggested that the only practical way to view other people is as demonic reprobates with an agenda...and I said to myself, "that describes me perfectly". 
self portrait

I was in a business meeting with about a dozen and a half people last week. One of the people present was from Florida. During a lull in the action, I asked him if he was into SCUBA and he said that he was. He explained that he was about one year old when they moved to Florida and he hasn't been out of the ocean since then, 1976. I said, "I was a frogman, killing people for a living back in '76. I guess that I should feel old." He made a point of reminding me that he didn't call me old. One of the other people in the meeting took exception at my (accurate) statement and suggested that I'm a demonic reprobate with an agenda.

Wow. People on two continents agree...

So what happens when being a cynic isn't cynical? I mean, it isn't if you're simply stating the obvious, it's not cynicism, is it? Most of my political mutterings aren't the least bit cynical.  What happens when fact-checking is simply "scientific observation" instead of rampant cynicism?

This is disturbing.

Thus I plan to blog with a few stories while I'm on the road. Some you may like, others you may like better. I hope that you don't think that any of them aren't worth the time it took to read them and that it's just five minutes of your life that you'll never get back.

They begin in earnest tomorrow.

But for now:

The Opportunist

It was clearly not the best of times, and it’s been suggested that while it was not the absolute worst of times, it was not far off. The Black Death struck, swept like wildfire and in many towns everyone succumbed. The lucky survived the symptoms and some didn’t get sick at all.

The age was one of absolute faith, stunning brutality, bottomless greed, pitiless cruelty, venal treachery, rampant warfare, low politics and boundless personal ambition, which is to say, it was no different than our age with the exception of emphasis on faith.

The mendicant friar crept from his daub and wattle cottage surrounded by lofty oaks by the side of a brook. He looked high on the hill to the manor home, surrounded by mot and bailey. There had been no activity for a week with the exception of ravens that flocked to the building like a black undulating carpet that ebbed and flowed over the fortress.

The village had been swept clean with the exception of John Butcher’s wife and the family of William the Smith, whose forge was dark these days. Three hundred twelve souls lay beneath the sod and there could be no explanation except that the judgment of God had been poured out on the land. He and William buried them all over the last month.

Today he, Francis the friar, took stylus and a large slate and walked to the humble church where once Monk Philip of Bathgate preached a sermon of repentance before he succumbed to the plague himself. Perhaps his personal reconciliation with God had not been sincere, or how else would Jesus have sent the destroying angel to his door.

Francis Friar took off his course sackcloth, stood naked to the world and scratched a verse in the slate. All who viewed his text would consider it heretical, but the world had changed and his devotion to God and devout vows of poverty slipped. There was so much wealth left behind by the departed that he had only to take it and it would be his.

“You vowed to live a holy life, too late, your vows and plaints to plaster saints did not avert your fate.”

When he completed the verse, he dropped his stylus, and walked up the hill to take ownership of the master’s castle. He had been reborn in the midst of the great dying. The next clothes that would drape his form would be of silk and brocade. He was alive because God had chosen him to inherit the earth.



Monday, April 21, 2014

Alien Spaceship Trapped in Saturn's Orbit?

3D Image of Saturn's moon, Promethius

I'm being anthropomorphic - but Saturn's moon, Promethius, does look a bit like one of those derelict spacecraft that you always find in SciFi books. In this case (taking authorship and fiction to a whole new level) Promethius may very well be a survey ship, launched from the planet Zoon in a faraway, distant galaxy zillions of years ago that became trapped in Saturn's orbit and has been iced over. 
Prometheus is one of Saturn's innermost moons. It orbits the gas-giant at a distance of about 140,000 kilometers (86,000 miles) and is 86 kilometers (53 miles) across at its widest point. The porous, icy world was originally discovered in images taken by NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft back in 1980.
When mankind lands on the object, they must do so while employing evolved shielding because the derelict ship is subjected to blasting radiation from Saturn.  Maybe it is a breach in that very shielding that caused the original crew to perish on the flight back from Earth to wherever they came from? I fully expect that when we get there, we will find the ship loaded with dinosaurs, which were believed to be Earth's only intelligent inhabitants back when the ship departed. The aliens experimented on the dinosaurs, finding that they, the dinosaurs, were going extinct due to dino-induced climate change. If only the dinosaurs had developed the internal combustion engine, there would have been no ice age!

Can we get the ship's engines started? Can we de-ice the damned thing and get it looking ship shape instead of an icy torpedo? And what will we do with the dinosaurs that are in suspended animation? I'm thinking Jurasic Park...
Cassini's narrow-angle camera captured two black-and-white images of the moon on Dec. 26, 2009, and the imaging team combined the images to make this new stereo view. It looks different from the "egg-cellent" raw image of Prometheus obtained on Jan. 27, 2014 because that view shows one of the short ends of the oddly shaped moon. In this 3-D image, the sun illuminates Prometheus at a different angle, making the moon's elongated body visible.
So it goes. 

For more information about the Cassini Equinox Mission visit: http://www.nasa.gov/cassini and http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov. Ashima Research contributes to the Cassini mission in the area of atmospheric analysis of Saturn's moon, Titan.




Sunday, April 20, 2014

Perspectives

I'm not a Clive Bundy fan. After all is said and done, he did run his cattle on land that did not belong to him (it's Easter -- render to Caesar that which is Caesars' etc). However, there is something to be said for the REACTION to the spontaneous outrage created. This is more poignant in light of government reaction to other "tragedies" which should have been labeled "terrorism".



Kingdom of Heaven - Director's Cut (movie review)

Eva Green played Sibylla,
Queen of Jerusalem
Sunday Sermonette:

It's Easter Sunday and I wanted to share a message that is a bit different than those that you'll find bouncing around the Internet today. If nothing else, Easter provides hope and the promise of value in atonement for sins. This film is not about atonement, and it's not about sin, but Scott's efforts here do explore how different people view sin and virtue from their own perspectives and you come away with a sense of virtue that we can all agree on.

There are many values that are explored in this film and they are explored in ways that I find very interesting, quite apart from the usual Hollywood drivel in much the same way as other films from Ridley Scott such as Gladiator do.

On to the show:

The feature film, Kingdom of Heaven - Director's Cut, is in my top three of all time. Note that when Ridley Scott filmed the movie, the studio slashed it down to size and in the process, lost most of the meaning. If you liked the movie, you'll love the Director's Cut.

The film is about many things, but the focus is centered in this quote:
A king may move a man, a father may claim a son, but that man can also move himself, and only then does that man truly begin his own game. Remember that howsoever you are played or by whom, your soul is in your keeping alone, even though those who presume to play you be kings or men of power. When you stand before God, you cannot say, "But I was told by others to do thus," or that virtue was not convenient at the time. This will not suffice.
Virtue is one of those illusive articles because so much gathers together to define it. In the Director's Cut, Ridley Scott explores the Sibylla story far more completely than it was in the theatrical release. Married to a man she did not love, she turned to Balian, who eventually became the defender of Jerusalem following the Leper King's death. Sibylla loses her land to Saladin and the Saracens, her son to leprosy, her husband is taken captive at the battle of Hattin in 1187. In the end, there is only her lover, Balian. It is a well directed and acted film, a compelling (if not quite accurate) telling of historic events and a love story for the ages.


Saturday, April 19, 2014

Lemmings


Stupid is as stupid does. Voting for Barack Obama because he's half negro makes every bit as much sense as voting for Hillary Clinton because she's a woman. Neither Barack or Hillary have ever held a straight job -- and that's a real problem when it comes to dealing with the nation.
"It was the women and especially the young and pretty ones who were the most bigoted adherents of the Party the swallowers of slogans the amateur spies and nosers-out of unorthodoxy.” - Orwell, 1984

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Fishwrap

CRUEL  GODS  OF  FATE

There aren't many women who I find as personally repulsive as I do the First Lady of the United States. Rev. Jeremiah Wright introduced Michelle and Barack on April Fool's Day all those years ago, and rumor control holds that he tried her out before she became Barack's. In which case Reverend Wright's taste also comes into question instead of it being an incredibly cruel April Fool's prank on Barack.


ARE  COMPARISONS  UNFAIR?

We see a lot of comparisons between the Nixon Administration and the Obama Administration these days. Democrats say that it's all "politics" these days. It was also all "politics" those days.

Attorney General Eric Holder recently complained because Congress has been holding him accountable for lying under oath - on several different matters.

Back when there was a mainstream media that held politicians responsible for conspiracy, obstruction of justice and perjury, we put Attorneys General in jail. These days it's simply chalked up to racisim because Eric Holder (like Barack Obama) is a a man of mixed race who has selected "negro" as the portion of his bloodline which will do him the most good.

WHAT  ABOUT  IRAN?

I realize that it's difficult for politicians to focus on more than one thing at at time, however, Iran is still building nuclear weapons without restraint and we've 'pivoted' from Iran and Syria to being concerned about Russia and Ukraine.

The Obama Administration would rather that you focus on the crisis of the moment (real or faked) and forget about those old crisis points like ObamaCare, Fast and Furious, IRS Scandal, Benghazi, and the host of abuses that the nation has heaped on the shoulders of its citizens. We've moved on from Iran in our hashed up foreign policy that started with the inept SECSTATE Hillary R. Clinton and has been just as fouled up by her successor SECSTATE John Kerry. But does that mean that the world is now safe from the tender mercies of the Shiite Mullahs?


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Fate of American Generals and Admirals



I don't think that it's ever happened quite this way before. If you are at flag rank in the US Military (general or admiral) and have not openly voiced support for the Obama Administration, you will not be promoted and if holding that rank, you'll be encouraged to retire so that one who supports the president openly (an obsequiously) can take your place.

h/t Daletoons
My experience in the military was very different and the wardrooms and officer's clubs were hotbeds of debate on politics, football, women (there were no serving female officers in SpecWar or on warships or subs then and you were allowed to discuss women), and whiskey (currently something that you also don't discuss in polite society in the US Military). 

Some military officers liked Pakistan, some didn't. Some military officers liked Israel, others did not. In the US Navy there is always discussion on the topics of fleet building, air wing deployments, the latest gizmo and it SpecWar there was a distinct white caste to the staffing. Some liked this or that president and their policies. Nobody thought much of Jimmy Carter.

Enter Barack and his flying circus.

A USN Captain (one grade down from Admiral) who is a friend of mine was not a supporter of the current president. He was heard to say in reference the commander-in-chief that the 'sickle cell' let him down once again. He uttered these words in the Hall's of McP's pub and while eating a burger with me at Hodads at Ocean Beach and I suggested that his days of advancement would be past because that's not how it's done in Chicago. 

Captain: "Gawddamnit Lambo, this is not Chicago, it's Coronado. The city names may sound similar but they're not."

me: (hands Captain Iron Pants a note)

Captain: "I'm going to get that star and then you're going to eat it." (He reads the note. It's a quote from Ovid.)
All the wide sky
Was there to tempt him as he steered toward heaven,
Meanwhile the heat of sun struck at his back
And where his wings were joined, sweet-smelling fluid
Ran hot that once was wax.
"What's this supposed to mean?"

me: "I wrote this quote out for you because you're silver wings can't stand the heat that the Chicago Mafia will be dolling out." (this was 2010)

Captain: "You'll see."

me: "Yep."

A few days ago, I met with the now retired civilian Captain for lunch at the Officer's Club at Coronado. He handed the crumpled note back just before he paid for the meal. He'd kept it for the past four years hoping to make me eat it. He was bitter but sanguine because the only people who move up to flag rank are people who financially support the Democratic Party and pledge personal allegiance to Barack Obama. If you're gay or are contemplating gender reassignment surgery, it's a plus. 

Captain: "It's not our daddy's navy."

me: "Nope."


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Left or Right? (the debate rages)


Everyone thinks that they're right...unless they're left. I've driven on both sides of the roadway as a matter of national policy, driving etiquette and survival. The problem comes when you've been driving on one side of the road and you change locations (like driving from Hong Kong into Mainland China or driving from Thailand into Laos or flying from the UK to almost anywhere else). It still works, until you turn a corner and instinctively revert to the side of the road that you've been driving on up to that point.

In Hong Kong, it matters a great deal. When you change to Mainland China it matters less because the rules of the road are "fuzzy". In Scotland on Hogmanay (New Years) people drive on both sides of the road without much knowing -- or caring.


Monday, April 14, 2014

Mile High

(Fox News - Story and Video) Is the Love Cloud a way to cheat the system and do it one mile up?  I suspect that it's a matter of perspective, but if it's on your bucket list - why not? 

However, there are a few things that you need to keep in mind before you book a flight on the Love Cloud that might tend to negate the provisions of the average guy or gal's bucket list. 


  • It's not with an on-duty flight attendant, so does it really count?
  • It involves no subterfuge - removing some of the fun on a commercial aircraft.
  • It's not a chance meeting in First Class on a regularly scheduled flight from here to there with a super model who can't keep her hands off you...


There is a company in Las Vegas that will fly you around one mile up (40 minutes for $800) and you can stay up longer ---- as long as it takes until your money or your vigor expires.


Might you feel a bit rushed? Possible. I guess that it depends on who you're with.  

The pilot is said to wear noise-canceling headphones, but trust me, even in a Cessna 421, the pilot will feel you as you move around in the back of the fuselage. I don't think that they do special requests - a trapeze will not fit inside the fuselage of a C-421. However soft restraints will and they recommend that you bring your own 'marital aids'. If you don't have them with you -- it's Vegas, baby! You can buy whatever you want locally.

No, I've never tried it in a commercially prepared love machine such as this one. As a result, you're on your own and what happens in Vegas, stays there.




Sunday, April 13, 2014

post hoc, ergo propter hoc

Magical Thinking: Just because you have a circulating fan 
blowing in the room, doesn't mean that it will take the spots 
off the Dalmatian, despite your fondest wishes.
Logic always floats on a sliding scale when we are speaking of humanity and the human condition. This is your Sunday Sermonette.

Logic is differentially applied by men and women. Having written this, there is the matter of magical thinking that both men and women use. It's usually applied to prove an unprovable point or to justify one's actions. Since I've run into it lately, I thought that I'd comment simply for the sake of the blog and general discussion.

post hoc, ergo propter hoc is Latin phrase that, being translated, means, "after this, therefore, because of this." The term refers to a rhetorical fallacy that because two events occurred in succession, the former event caused the latter event.

X happened before Y -> therefore X caused Y

Trivial examples
1.  The rooster crows before sunrise, therefore the crowing rooster causes the sun to rise. 
2.  A drunk scientist conducts an experiment to see why he gets hangovers. He decides to keep a diary. Monday night, scotch and soda; Tuesday morning, hangover. Tuesday night, gin and soda; Wednesday morning, hangover. Wednesday night: vodka and soda; Thursday morning, hangover. Thursday night, rum and soda; Friday morning, hangover. On Friday night before going out for a drink, the drunk scientist has an epiphany. "Aha!" he says to himself, "I've got it! Soda causes hangovers!" (WoFat will agree...) 
3.  My mother (who is getting up in years) often says things like, "God led me to the grocery store today where I found that oranges were on sale. Because God knows that I like oranges and that I'm on a budget. God reduced the price of oranges for my specific benefit."
These arguments are particularly useful when you need to justify what you did. Having a noble cause in your pocket inevitably helps. The more noble the cause, the more justifiable the act.  post hoc, ergo propter hoc.


John Locke said, "One unerring mark of the love of truth is not entertaining any proposition with greater assurance than the proofs it is built upon will warrant." Disagree if it makes you feel more magical and less comfortable. If something happens (something can be anything) and you say, "God intended that to happen" (that being the price of oranges, finding a penny on the sidewalk or a brief rain squall that caught you without an umbrella) -- you need to at least consider post hoc, ergo proper hoc. Maybe it's God. Maybe it's a penny on the sidewalk.


Magical Thinking: Fine if you're imagining it, but
dangerous if you plan to try this at home. 
** Caveat: If we're speaking of quantum mechanics, there is very little difference between pancake syrup and a metal plate...but that's not what I'm addressing here.